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Poland Earmarks More Money for Auschwitz Security
The main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I, Poland, which was liberated by the Russians, January 1945. AP Photo.

Monika Scislowska, Associated Press Writer

WARSAW (AP).- Poland's culture minister on Wednesday promised the Auschwitz museum money to step up security after the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free") sign was stolen from the site of the former Nazi death camp.

Police found the sign Sunday, cut into three pieces and hidden beneath a layer of snow in the woods. Five men have been arrested, and police say the crime was not driven by ideology but likely commissioned by someone from abroad.

On Wednesday, Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski said he has earmarked 400,000 zlotys ($137,000) for improving external security at the memorial site in southern Poland. It is made up of two camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau — also known as Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II — and sprawls nearly 500 acres (200 hectares).

He also said that guards who failed to prevent the theft last week have been suspended and other museum employees could also face consequences.

Museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt said the money could buy more than 10 high-quality surveillance cameras.

The museum is constantly upgrading its security system, he said, especially inside buildings that house documents and belongings of the more that 1 million victims of the camp, including tons of hair, glasses or suitcases.

Prosecutors investigating the early Friday theft said that security at the museum was insufficient. But Mensfelt disagreed, saying over more than 50 of the museum's 250 employees were in charge of security, and that police experts were regularly consulted on security matters.

The annual budget of 10 million zlotys ($3.3 million) comes from the Polish state coffers and another 10 million zlotys it earns from guided tours, historic publications and a parking lot.

Mensfeldt said the management was reviewing scores of offers of funding from Poland and abroad.

Police were analyzing the damaged sign and it was not immediately clear when it could be returned to the museum. For now, a replica of the sign hangs in its place.

After occupying Poland in 1939, the Nazis established the Auschwitz I camp, for German political prisoners and Polish prisoners. The sign was made in 1940 and placed above the main gate there.

Two years later, hundreds of thousands of Jews began arriving by train in cattle cars to the wooden barracks of nearby Birkenau, also called Auschwitz II, where they were systematically killed in gas chambers.

The camp was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945, by the Soviet army. The museum plans ceremonies next month marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation.



Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.


Auschwitz | "Arbeit Macht Frei" | Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski |


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